Create:Eat puts a creative spin on the communal dining experience
Create:Eat is a crowd-sourced, pop-up dining event involving 25 creative collaborators, a disused church and two Agas. Donald Reid met the two women behind the saga
Two years ago, Aoife Behan was into organising home supper clubs, sporadic events where keen cooks turned their homes into restaurants for the night. It was the hot new dining trend in town for a while but Behan quickly understood that while there was a clear appetite in Edinburgh for unconventional one-off dining events, people’s homes were not the place to hold them.
She then set up Burgher Burger, a monthly pop-up, which began with top chefs flipping gourmet burgers in a greasy spoon in Leith. Most recently they sold out two nights during the festival serving champagne and burgers in the Signet Library.
Keener than ever to tap into the creative juices which seemed to flow before and during these imaginative but logistically fraught events, she teamed up with designer Carol Soutar to establish Jelly+Gin Productions. Their next idea was for a one-off dining feast with maximum creative input, an event planned for October they’re calling Create:Eat.
Usually when events take on a life of their own, the organisers get worried. With Create:Eat, it’s the whole point. Behan and Soutar put out a call on social media in May seeking creative collaborators prepared to donate a skill or an item – not just related to food and drink, but any artistic talent or practical element that might help to contribute to a unique dining experience. ‘Rather than going: we need you to do this, and you to do that,’ explains Behan, ‘we were quite clear that we would present an idea and then see what happened with it.’
They got a huge response, with over 200 potential contributors coming forward in the first 48 hours. They selected just 25, including well-known chef Neil Forbes, mixologists Jason Scott and Mike Aikman of Bramble, ‘coffee entrepreneur’ David Freeman, florists Pyrus, chocolatiers, lighting designers, a food installation artist and an illustrator. Just as intriguing are the contributions of Edinburgh City Council, who are making the disused Trinity Apse Church in the Old Town available as a venue, and the local Aga shop, which comes to the project with unanticipated enthusiasm as providers of the temporary kitchen.
The loose team are mostly young, evidently excited and keen to work with people they’ve only just met. As Behan observes, ‘This is an opportunity for them. Why it appeals is because everyone’s at the stage in their careers where they’re working for clients, or for other people, and they don’t have the freedom to express themselves fully. This event is about doing that, but collaboratively.’
For their donations, each of the creative collaborators earns a place at the communal table. But what about the audience? And funding? Up to this point the event had no cash. So for the other 25 places at the table Behan and Soutar turned to crowd funding to find people prepared to pay £100 to attend the event. Rather than ticket holders, Behan sees them as investors. ‘Instead of saying, “Give us money to facilitate our great night out”, we very much focused on the reward for our backers.’ It may not be that different from giving customers value for money, but Soutar prefers to focus on the idea of a unique communal meal where everyone at the table has made an important contribution.
By early September, Create:Eat was almost sold out. The audience may, in the end, be small, but for Aoife Behan the event is a great example of what’s now possible in Scotland in the realm where food, culture and creativity meet.
See createeat.com for remaining places.